I just read CNN article on the rise of Social Gospel (again) in America through the activity of workers unions. I would love to hear Diana’s take, from an historical and current standpoint. For eg, could this movement counteract the harm being done by the religious right in any significant way?
HI Diana, please forgive the length of this, but your reflections reminded me that I wrote something awhile back, and so I thought I'd see how it read, some 15 years later!!! Grateful to you and to Richard for being a part of "Claiming the Beatitudes."
From the Intro:
"If we interpret the beatitudes as a set of rules to live by we sever them from their roots in the tradition of the Jewish prophets. Matthew’s community was steeped in Isaiah, and Jesus quotes Isaiah more than any other prophet. Isaiah announced again and again the signs of God’s presence in the world, using language about peace and light and justice and healing and liberation and joy. Each one of the beatitudes echoes Isaiah’s description of the reign of God.
These brief sayings give us a lens through which to see Jesus and the God he proclaimed. Through these words, and through his alternative way in the world, Jesus points to a God who is always doing something new, a God who engages this world with healing mercy, endless compassion, and liberating justice. We see a God who is most concerned about those who have the least. The beatitudes give us not only a way to see God, but a way to see our world, and they give us something concrete to do about what we see, as they call us to participate in God’s kingdom. As St. Augustine said, (and Marcus Borg quotes): “God without us will not; and we without God cannot.”3
The emerging leaders whose stories follow know this; they claim the beatitudes of Jesus not as a description of a future heavenly realm, but as a prescription for vital discipleship now. With them, I believe that the beatitudes were offered to the early church as both encouraging comfort and as a stirring manifesto for a way of life that ran radically counter to the prevailing ethos of the Roman Empire. These words of blessing are as defiant as Mary’s Magnificat and as bold as Jesus’ first sermon at Nazareth. The beatitudes had the power to change lives in the first century, and they hold that same power today, shaping a new generation of leaders and giving them a word of daring hope to bring to the communities they will serve."
Beautiful breakdown of one of the most important parts of the Gospel
Nice to meet you at Church of the Resurrection in Marion IA on Saturday.
Thank you for your musings on this beatitudes. Just thought I'd share mine take on them which focuses on honor and dignity, value and worth -- concepts that were bound up with the idea of "blessing" in the ancient world. This is what I preached on Sunday Nov 5, 2023 at St. Stephen's Lutheran Church in Cedar Rapids.
Standing on a mountain overlooking the Sea of Galilee, Jesus declares that a whole host of unlikely people are “blessed.”
People whose spirits are poor, crushed by personal, social, or economic disaster.
People who grieve the loss of family and friends, jobs and security, health and vitality.
People who have been rendered “meek” — humiliated and humbled, shamed and silenced.
People who hunger and thirst of righteousness — relationships of equity and justice.
People who are rejected, harassed and persecuted for seeking fairness, equity and justice.
Let’s be clear — Jesus is NOT saying we are lucky or fortunate to experience these things. Jesus is NOT saying we should be happy in the midst of our suffering. Makarios, the Greek word we translate as blessed is not about luck or happiness. It is all about honor and dignity, value and worth. Jesus proclaims the honor and dignity, the value and worth of people society looks down on, neglects, despises, and actively traumatizes. Jesus revalues those who have been dis-valued. Jesus honors those who have been shamed.
The beatitudes are the most amazing good news — all of us will experience one or more of these conditions during our lifetime. The beatitudes call us to account, to confess that at least sometimes we fail to honor and respect our neighbors. At times we may even be guilty of cursing the people Jesus blesses. Jesus also blesses people who are actively trying to do something about suffering of their neighbors.
Blessed are the merciful who think, speak, and act with kindness and compassion, goodwill and generosity. As James, the brother of Jesus, reminds us “mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).
Blessed are the pure in heart whose thoughts and feelings are being cleansed of their adoration of power, money, fame, and other false gods in order to be reformed and realigned with God’s values.
Blessed are the peacemakers who strive for the right relations, equity, and justice necessary for human thriving on all levels — physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
We can be a blessing to others, indeed we must be...
(14) My brothers, what profit is it if a man says he has faith and does not have works? Can faith save him?
(15) If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food,
(16) and if one of you says to them, Go in peace, be warmed and filled, but you do not give them those things which are needful to the body, what good is it?
(17) Even so, if it does not have works, faith is dead, being by itself.
(18) But someone will say, You have faith, and I have works. Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith from my works.
(19) You believe that there is one God, you do well; even the demons believe and tremble.
(20) But will you know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
(21) Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
(22) Do you see how faith worked with his works, and from the works faith was made complete?
(23) And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness, and he was called the friend of God."
(24) You see then how a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
(25) And in the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she had received the messengers and had sent them out another way?
(26) For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
I was reminded of John Dear's Beatitudes of Peace which describe what we really value - wealth, might, etc. It took me a while, but I finally found a link to his "version". Do take a look. https://www.ncronline.org/blogs/road-peace/beatitudes-peace
The Beatitudes are not a performance formula for spirituality. They are a description of how God’s grace as evidenced through Christ can/will affect the lives of those who suffer from life’s tribulations-- all of us, in some-fashion or another. Hear the Good News! Even in trials, suffering and death there is hope, and comfort. Does that mean we should just accept poverty and injustice? No, it motivates us to do what we can to reduce them, and even if our efforts are futile God still is with us.
i was reminded of a drawing i had done when a kid, a drawing of some African children in Obize who were suffering from malnutrition. Look magazine had done a huge article and some of the photographs of these kids were compelling. The title? Blessed are they who expect nothing, for they shall not be disappointed."
I was recently blessed by my husband’s five-day stay in the hospital. Amidst the uncertainty about Lance’s condition that necessitated ambulance transport, I witnessed joy and blessing brought to everyone who walked into his room by the patient himself.
During the more than a half a century I’ve known him, whenever I have had a problem, Lance has always said, “What can I do to help you?” My response has also always been the same. “Just be you.” Being who he is has not only always been enough for me in dealing with whatever life happens to be throwing my way at any given moment, it has brought mountain ranges of joyful peaks offsetting my dark valleys.
From the emergency room bed through to discharge, I saw Lance ease right back into the comforter role he had when he was a hospice chaplain in the 90’s. He most loved that job because of all of those who were mourning he could comfort. When Lance first started that job, I asked him once what the hospice patient was dying from. “It doesn’t matter what they are dying from. People die like they live. My role is to help them and their loved ones come to terms with their lives and their relationships in light of their coming death.”
This is a haiku that I wrote about the way in which I saw the experience of everyone being blessed by Lance’s stay:
Week in hospital
Taught by way of weak body
Strength of hope in soul
I’m also grateful to have been the one who could continue to enjoy the blessing Lance is by taking him back home. Still healing; still blessing.
I see no blessings in my life whatsoever. I'm just a miserable person that no one wants to be around.
Thank you, Diana, for providing me with a perspective of The Beatitudes which I had never considered before.
Oops, hit send too quickly! Filled with compassionate love. He asks them to open their eyes to see the suffering of poverty, grief, persecution, etc., in the lives of the “ saints” God’s children, who belong in the Kingdom. Important for the disciples to see, and feel the suffering of those who are Blessed. You are salt, light, witness to the love of God for them, yourselves, and the world.
Then I read the Revelation 7 text, inspired by the description of that great multitude from every nation, from all tribes, and peoples and languages, standing before the throne of God, worshipping and singing, Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen!
Then I read Matthew 25, the crowd of people are there, hungry, naked, prisoners, sick, and Jesus asking, “Do you see me as you look at these people? And I looked again at the 5 Latinx and began to see their struggle for life, listen to the difficult journey they were on, and realized they too were children of God, Blessed, and looking for encouragement and support, salt, light, affirmation, relationship.
I began the day with this community, expanded my community, and now rest with this Community in the assurance of God’s Blessing. Much to be grateful for today. Thanks!
Words are difficult to describe my experience of All Saints today. Early in the day I read Sunday Musings and the comments about the Beatitudes. Always had difficulty relating to this text as instructions developing “Christian Attitudes.” Comments from the community assured me I was not alone in my struggle. I attended worship at my church hoping for clarity but the Matthew text was not read or discussed. Instead, there were visitors from Latinx sharing the plight of Labor Trafficking, people struggling to provide a living income for their families, treated unjustly, hungry, threatened deportation, etc., part of the crowd, as I saw them, in that group of people Jesus saw. My eyes opened to that text as never before. Jesus had invited his disciples to sit with him aside from the crowd and look at the people gathered in anticipation to what he had to say or do. I wondered what they saw, like me, if I was asked to do the same. What did I see as these 5 Latinx sat in the row in front of me? Jesus saw much more through eyes that penetrated the facades of humanity, through a heart filled with
Brought to mind what I heard this week, a new answer for many young people to ? What do u want to be when u grow up? Influencer....
GRATITUDE AND BLESSINGS GO TOGETHER SO WELL
I LIKE YOUR DESCRIPTIONS OF BLESSINGS AND THE CONNECTING THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT IS A FRESH WAY. IT IS SO IMPORTANT TO RETHINK, EXPERIENCE THE SERMON AS A FRESH WAY TO LIVE IN THE GOSPEL